Tropical Biodiversity and Food Security
Engels, Johannes M.M. , Bordoni, Paul .
The role of neglected and underutilized species in providing food security.
Neglected and underutilized species (NUS) are species of actual or potential importance for agriculture, food security and nutrition but are either neglected by research and/or underutilized in their capacity to produce food or other benefits to human beings. Considering the fact that approximately 7000 plant species, wild and domesticated, at one time or another have been used by humans and that possibly only about 150 species provide for almost our entire dietary intake and/or for other uses and receive adequate research attention, most of the useful plant species are NUS. In general, these species are in the hands of the poor who are their custodians and who are in charge of their conservation, crop improvement, development of technologies for their cultivation, processing and utilization applying the traditional knowledge that had been passed on from generation to generation.
This paper deals with aspects on how and why NUS contribute to food security and why their systematic conservation as an important genetic resource is critical to human kind. In fact, species and genetic diversity are critically important for a multitude of evolutionary, environmental and other processes that provide resilience to production systems and thus contribute to sustainability. This diversity plays a key role in allowing subsistence farmers and gatherers to harvest (sometimes modest) yields, to select for better adapted materials during times of change, to provide for other essential products such as medicine, construction materials, etc. as well as to provide for better and more balanced diets. Unfortunately, due to globalization, intensification of agriculture, deforestation, urbanization many of these species and their associated knowledge are seriously threatened to be lost forever. Therefore, systematic and comprehensive ex situ and/or in situ/on-farm and in-garden conservation efforts will be needed to safeguard these species from disappearing and/or getting completely out of use.
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1 - Bioversity International, Via dei Tre Denari 472/a, Maccarese (Fiumicino), Rome, 00057, Italy
2 - Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species, Rome, Italy
Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Date: Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Time: 11:00 AM